Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland has reclaimed her country-pop crown, if Friday’s concert at Covelli Centre was any indication.
After a five-year hiatus, the act – Nettles and Kristian Bush – released an album, “Bigger,” and got its touring machine cranked up.
Last week’s show was Sugarland’s third in a decade at Covelli Centre, and proved that Nettles remains one of the most dominant singers in any type of pop music. The twang that colors every note from her powerful voice is the most “country” thing about Sugarland and it’s so right for the act’s effervescent songwriting style.
Nettles also doesn’t lack for stage presence. If you are in a duo with her, you’d better not expect to be the focal point. Fortunately, Bush realizes how fortunate he is to have her on the team.
Sugarland likes to keep it sincere and with a positive edge, and their shows are more about connecting with the audience than wowing it with pyrotechnics. The set list was laden with hits from the band’s catalog delivered with heartfelt sincerity, opening with the title track to the new album.
There was “All I Want to Do,” the sugary “Stuck Like Glue,” “Already Gone,” “Incredible Machine,” the new single “Babe,” “Stay,” “Baby Girl,” “Something More” and on and on.
For “Little Miss,” Nettles, in a flowing red cape and Indian-style hoop earrings, played the intro on a piano.
At the midway point, Bush addressed the band’s long layoff, during which time they kept busy with side projects. “Some people think Jennifer and I have been on a five-year vacation,” he said. “That would be impressive.”
The two then took turns playing songs from their solo albums. Bush went first with his darkly humorous and upbeat “Trailer Hitch”:
“Don’t know why everyone wants to die rich ...
Everybody tries to fit it into that ditch.
You can’t take it with you when you go.
Never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch.”
Nettles then scorched the hall with her torch song “Unlove You.”
Sugarland ended the night with a cover of Patti LaBelle’s New Orleans classic “Lady Marmalade.”
Opening the concert was Australian-born Clare Bowen, who is best known for playing Scarlett O’Connor on CMT’s soapy drama “Nashville.” The wispy singer deserved more than a beer-break 20-minute set, although she and fellow opener Brandy Clark did return for “Marmalade.”
Clark was very impressive. Long known as a songwriter, she has written many hits for other artists. These include Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart,” and she reminded the audience of her track record by singing it.
WEEZER AND THE PIXIES AND FICTION FOREST
A week of concerts actually started for me on July 11 with Weezer and the Pixies at Blossom Music Center.
I actually came for the Pixies, but was blown away by Weezer, who turned in what I will remember as one of the most fun sets of the year (surprisingly, Fitz and the Tantrums set at LaureLive in June is also on the short list).
Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo writes with a smirk but performs with a serious power-pop demeanor, and the result is just smile-inducing fun. The set list included all of the well-known songs, including the new cover of Toto’s “Africa,” but the act also went deep with cuts like “My Name Is Jonas” and “Across the Sea.”
At one point, Cuomo darted through the audience to a tiki hut in the seats, where he did “Island in the Sun” and the A-Ha cover “Take On Me.”
Blossom was nearly at capacity for the summertime concert, thanks to word of mouth and probably a multitude of discount four-pack ticket buyers in the lawn. And they were glad they showed up.
While the weather was perfect for Weezer, the unbearable July humidity returned Saturday for Fiction Forest, a daylong rock festival at the B&O Station in Youngstown with a lineup of local and regional bands.
Crowds were just sparse during the heat but rebounded nicely in the early evening. They were treated to nonstop great sets, most notably a span of three hours that included Spirit of the Bear, the Vindys and JD Eicher and his band.
Guy D’Astolfo covers entertainment for The Vindicator. Follow him on Twitter at @VindyVibe.